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Speakers at a round-table onSaturday stressed the need for national consensus and mobilisation of thesupport of the people to realise the just share of water in the common riversflowing into Bangladesh from India.
Being a riverine country,Bangladesh can survive only by keeping alive her rivers which are the life lineof the nation , they said while speaking on "Effect of Water SharingDispute on Regional peace and security: The case of South Asia"
Organised jointly by The NewNation in collaboration with the South Asian Youth for Peace and ProsperitySociety , the roundtable was addressed by eminent water experts, academicians,editors of newspapers and civil society leaders.
The speakers suggested that thegovernment should take up the water dispute at multilateral level and the UN bypreparing convincing documents highlighting the environmental and securityconcerns, livelihood and social problems created due to scarcity of surfacewater. They warned that water concerns and discontent may not remain confinedwithin our political boundary but spill over across the borders creating unrestin the region.
Welcoming the discussants,Barrister Mainul Hosein, Managing Director and Chairman, Board of Editors ofThe New Nation, called for a national consensus and unity at national level toface the water hegemony.
Moderated by Mostafa KamalMajumder, Editor of the New Nation, the roundtable was addressed , amongothers, by Dr SI Khan, a former environment specialist of UN, Tawhidul AnwarKhan, a former member of the Joint River Commission, Khondaker Azharul Huq, RCmember of BWP and former MD of the WASA, Former secretary ANM Akhter Hossain ,Alamgir Mohiuddin, Editor of The Naya Diganta, Professor Dilara Chowdhury ofDhaka University, Shahidul Hasan, President of Bangladesh Water Partnership ,Dr M A Matin, General Secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA) SyedaRizwana Hasan, Chief Executive of BELA, Syed Tosharraf Ali, Editor of theweekly Robbar and Syed Altaf Hossain General Manager of the New Nation.
Presenting the keynote speech, DrASM Ali Ashraf, Assistant Professor of the Department of InternationalRelations, Dhaka University, highlighted the growing water stress in South Asiathat was also facing water disputes involving the neghbouring nations.
He referred to the disputeresolution mechanisms over the river Nile and the Danube suggesting similarmechanism instead of indulging in water politics with the neighbours.
Dr SI Khan, former environmentspecialist of the United Nations and vice-chairman of International FarakkaCommittee expressed his frustration that the successive governments failed tomake a fair deal on water sharing with India and Bangladesh is getting evenless than the agreed upon amount of Ganges water. India signed Indus basinwater treaty with Pakistan keeping the provisions of arbitration guarantee fordispute resolution while in dealing with Bangladesh India avoided such clausesdue to weak negotiation capability of our experts.
He questioned the patriotism ofthose advisers who sided with the Indian arguments without pursuing ournational interest. He suggested mobilisation of public opinion to strengthenthe negotiation power.
Tawhidul Anwar Khan, a formermember of the Joint River Commission said that there had been skilled officialsto negotiate with Indian in proper terms but every time they were put on thesideline by in a political subjugation on the part of our leaders at the helm ofthe government.
"There has been many good words in the national water policybut its is not implemented properly" he regretted.
Bangladesh needs water not onlyfor the livelihood of her people but for its existence, he said adding thatwater is needed to flow down to the bay for keeping the river alive and gettingthe grand water supply within the reach and safe the country from salinityintrusion.
Khondaker Azharul Huq, former MDof the WASA said a strong collective effort should be made to win the dispute.He suggested strengthening of track two diplomacy and understanding to mountpressure on potential leaders for water dispute settlement.
Bangladesh being in the lowerriparian , economically weak , and smaller in terms of military andgeographical territory against India must mobilise the support of her 16 crorepeople to gain strength and bargaining power.
Former secretary ANM AkhterHossain said Bangladesh must continue to raise protest against Indian riverlinking and the Tipaimukh Dam projects to secure the sovereignty of the countryand protect the water rights on the common rivers.
It is also essential to mobiliseinternal public support in favour of Bangladesh's legal demands in terms ofwater sharing with India, he said.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, ChiefExecutive of BELA called for Bangladesh to have rapport with other smallcountries of South Asia to create joint pressure for sustainable management ofHimalayan rivers for the benefit of all.